#Values: Fighting the Gender Gap

Ideas to fight the gender gap in the Australian entrepreneurial ecosystem

Photo by lucas wesney from Unsplash.

What's up, Adelaide founders? Welcome back! This is a special post dedicated to fighting the gender gap. In the next paragraphs, I will discuss the current state of gender inequalities in the Australian startup ecosystem and present leading initiatives and programs promoting female leadership and helping promote gender equity.

Now is The Moment!

Why shall we care about fighting the gender gap now? I believe we South Australians should take ownership of this cause and work everyday to build an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem for the following reasons:

  1. Better Future: Educating the entrepreneurs of today will shape the companies of tomorrow, therefore if we seek a better future we need to make an impact today;

  2. Opportunity: We face a tremendous opportunity as our innovation ecosystem is still young and our culture and institutions can be carefully built now, instead of fixed in the future;

  3. Time: promoting gender equity requires cultural changes, which takes time.

Gender Gap in Australia

How are we Australian faring with regards to gender inequalities in the startup ecosystem? Let’s bring some data to ground this discussion.

I often read articles and commentaries stating that only a small portion of Australian venture capital-backed startups have at least one female co-founder as opposed to a large majority of all-male founding teams. No doubt this is an alarming fact, but does it provide us with a clear picture of the problem and how to address it?

Certainly, funding is a crucial ingredient for startups to thrive. But what are the reasons for such a gap? Are female-led startups receiving less funding than male-led startups? Or perhaps the majority of startups are being founded by all-male teams? If the latter is true, what are the reasons behind it?

Startup Muster in their 2018 annual survey identified that over 77% of startup founders are male. After sustained growth, female participation amongst founders has plateaued in 2017.

In addition, a recent report titled Women & Entrepreneurship by the Wade Institute argues that a combination of the above contributes to aggravating the gender gap. According to a study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics cited by the report, when women do start businesses, they tend to avoid high-growth industries. Another study carried out by LaunchVic noted that women are more likely to start traditionally low-growth businesses, such as social enterprises, compared with high-growth startups.

The report follows on to cite that only 29% of venture capital-funded startups have at least one female co-founder. The study named a number of cause, such as female underrepresentation in leading venture capital firms, role models and unconscious biases. Other causes cited are a lack of visibility and lower confidence of female entrepreneurs.

Another aspect of gender inequalities is startup employment. According to Startup Muster’s 2017 report, 57% of startup respondents had a workforce where females represented less than 30% and another 38% of respondents had no female employees at all. Considering that 18% of startups had zero employees, one can estimate the female participation at a mere 23% in the startup ecosystem.

The low female participation in the startup workforce will, in turn, reinforce the abovementioned pattern. Indeed, this happens because startups are real-life training centers for founders and launchpads for new ideas. Therefore, promoting female employment in the startup ecosystem must be a priority.

But why are startups hiring no or just a few female employees? One reason might be linked to gender differences related to academic training as well as professional preferences. Gender Gap Grader, an organization that measures the gender gap across professional fields, pointed that ‘developer’ is the most popular role specified on AngelList. In addition, Gender Gap Grader estimated that only 9% of developers are female. Other popular positions are software architect (4.2% women), entrepreneur (11.3% women), and marketing (33.8% women).

Furthermore, a research backed by the Australian government titled ‘Youth in STEM Research’ stated that differences in interest and confidence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) appear early, and are particularly concerning for information technology and engineering. According to the study, twice as many male students aspired to a STEM-related career than females.

In conclusion, the road to solving the gender gap in the Australian entrepreneurial ecosystem may be long and bumpy and several structural problems lay ahead:

  1. How can we incentivise young female students to prioritize STEM courses and careers?

  2. How can we boost female participation in the startup workforce?

  3. How to incentivise more female entrepreneurs to start and build high-growth businesses?

  4. How can increase female representation in top-tier venture capital funds?

  5. How can we fight unconscious biases against female founders?

How Can We Act?

The first step to act is to recognise this problem and join our communities in fighting the gender gap and building an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem. You can act now by taking advantage of the following programs and initiatives.

Code Like a Girl

We empower and enable women and girls to be equal creators in building the future. Code Like a Girl is a social enterprise providing girls and women with the confidence, tools, knowledge and support to enter, and flourish, in the world of coding! Find more

Women in AI

Women in AI (WAI) is a nonprofit do-tank working towards gender-inclusive AI that benefits global society. Our mission is to increase female representation and participation in AI. We are a community-driven initiative bringing empowerment, knowledge and active collaboration via education, research, events, and blogging. Find more

Girls Who Code

In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%. The percent will continue to decline if we do nothing. We know that the biggest drop off of girls in computer science is between the ages of 13 and 17. Girls Who Code is changing the game. We're reaching girls around the world and are on track to close the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2027. Find more

STEM Women

STEM Women is an online directory of women in Australia working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). STEM Women aims to promote gender equity in STEM by showcasing the breadth of scientific talent in Australia, enabling a diverse range of women to be offered exciting opportunities to progress their careers and personal capabilities. Learn more

Government of South Australia Women in STEM

Careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) offer the opportunity to engage in some of the most exciting realms of discovery and technological innovation. Increasing opportunities for women in these fields is essential to our economy and to achieve gender equality. Find more

Liminal Conference

Fast-track your journey into a startup. Liminal was an immersive week-long series of online talks, workshops, and high-energy breakout sessions with leading startup operators and coaches. The conference took place online in July 2020, but all the replays are available here. Find more

Startmate Fellowship

The Startmate Fellowship is a pathway for talented women to find their sweet spot in a rocketship startup. Find more

Winnovation Awards

Women in Innovation SA is a community of volunteer professionals passionate about innovation and technology striving to support and elevate South Australia's innovative women. Find more

She Loves Tech Innovation Competition

She Loves Tech is the world’s largest startup competition for women and technology. We are the bridge that connects women and technology. We seek out and accelerate the best entrepreneurs and technology for transformative impact. We believe that this combination is key to solving the world’s greatest challenges. Find more

Springboard Enterprises

Springboard’s mission is to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial companies led by women through access to essential resources and a global community of experts. It is the leading network of influencers, investors and innovators dedicated to building high-growth companies led by women who are transforming industries in technology and life science. Find more

SheEO

SheEO is a global community of radically generous women supporting women-led Ventures working on the World’s To Do List. Our goal is to reach 1M Activators, 10,000 women-led Ventures and a $1B perpetual fund to support women for generations to come. Find more

SBE Australia

Since 2012, SBE Australia has been providing women with access to tools, networks and knowledge. We're here to help women build and scale global, sustainable businesses. Female founders face a unique set of challenges. We understand these challenges, in addition to those commonly faced by entrepreneurs. Our programs are designed to help you sharpen your plans, hone your skills and build a network for long term success. Find more

SheStarts Accelerator

SheStarts is the only venture-backed accelerator program for women-led startups in Australia. Turbocharging women entrepreneurs to build big tech ideas, with the help of: (i) An in-house dedicated tech team to help build an amazing product from idea to launch; (ii) First class training in startup methodologies to grow your business for success; (iii) Access to the who’s who of global startup advisors and partnerships with some of Australia’s leading brands and (iv) Access to venture capital to help kickstart your entrepreneurial journey. Find more

Atto Accelerator

Atto is a new pre-accelerator program that is designed to help female founders create tech companies in an independent, scalable, and agile way. Find more

Atto Academy

Atto Academy is a member-driven community of female founders, friendly advisors, no-code experts, and startup educators. We help female founders through our online courseware, private events, community platform, expert marketplace, how-to tutorials, micro fund, and more. Find out more below. Find more

Elevacao Accelerator

Founded in New York, ELEVACAO is a global pre-accelerator empowering women to launch and grow successful tech businesses. Since launch, we’ve helped 150+ founders across the US and Australia prepare their businesses for investment funding (raising $50m+) and sustained growth. Find more

Angel Sidecar Fund

As announced in the Victorian Budget 2020/21, LaunchVic is set to run a $10 million ‘Women's Angel Sidecar Fund’ (WASF) to assist women founders to raise the capital they need to grow their early stage startups and create new high value jobs. Increasing access to capital for women founders will improve their rate of success leading to increases in participation of women in the startup economy. It is also anticipated the fund will inspire women who are thinking about launching a startup to do so. Find more

IFundWomen

IFundWomen is the go-to marketplace for women-owned businesses and the people who want to fund them. We offer access to capital through crowdfunding and grants, expert business coaching on all the topics entrepreneurs need to know about, and a network of women business owners that sparks confidence, accelerates knowledge, and ignites action. Find more

Hen House Co-op

The Hen House Co-operative is leading the way for emerging female entrepreneurs and their supporters about closing the gender investment gap with 3 programs: Give a Cluck, the Incubator and Hatched. Find more

Chooks SA

Chooks SA is a community formed to: (i) connect women across the generations; (ii) learn from one another and build a community where support not competition is the priority; (iii) celebrate successes (however small); (iv) commit to each other to take the next step we need to for our idea to take off. We apply a gender lens not rose coloured glasses. We build ourselves up without tearing anyone else down. Find more

Female Founder Collective

The Female Founder Collective is a network of businesses led by women, supporting women. Our mission is to enable and empower female-owned and led businesses to positively impact our communities, both socially and economically. Find more

Women in VC

The world’s largest global community for women in venture capital to connect, collaborate, and create new opportunities. Find more


Finally, I thank Moira Were, Leesa Anne and all members of the Chooks SA community for their great work and incredible engagement leading the fight against the gender gap in South Australia.

This is all for today! If you like this post, leave a comment and connect with me through LinkedIn! If you would like to just say hi, or publish a story, event or job announcement on this newsletter, please drop me a line. Finally, click subscribe below to receive this newsletter every week by email.

Keep building,
Rob Blum